How should the dream of a connected town come true in Ipswich?

Ipswich Town Hall

How should Ipswich town centre become "connected" and home to 50% more people? - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

A new report on how Ipswich can become a more connected town has recommended creating more "green routes" around the town centre - and reducing traffic in the Waterfront gyratory system.

Ipswich Central invited urban planning experts Allies and Morrison to update the report they originally published in 2018 in the light of the "Connected Town" proposal that was the centrepiece of its successful ballot to retain the Business Investment Development at the end of last year.

Much of the original report's contents are unchanged - but it does look forward to a time when the population of the town centre has risen by 50%.

Ipswich is still being urged to close Salthouse Street and College Street to traffic and turn Star Lane into a two-way road in a bid to better link the Waterfront and town centre.

However when that was proposed four years ago the plans for the Upper Orwell Crossing - a new bridge across the river - were still being drawn up. They were eventually abandoned later that year.

The new report continues to support the creation of a riverside part between Princes Street and Stoke bridges, a paved area for outdoor eating at the bottom of Lloyds Avenue and creating a new leisure area including a new cinema between Stoke Bridge and Grafton Way.

What is new in the report is a proposal to develop the car parks next to the New Wolsey Theatre and create "Green Streets" in the town centre to make them more pedestrian-friendly with planters and flowerbeds to make them more attractive.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said: "Ipswich Central commissioned Allies and Morrison to update their report. We didn't ask them to say anything on any particular subject although we did tell them about the aim to create a connected town.

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"We know there are issues with the traffic around the Waterfront - but if we really want to link that area with the town centre someone is going to really have to take on that and do something radical."

The traffic around the town is county council issue, and cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said there were currently no plans for a change to the gyratory system: "If anyone wants to change this then the place to start is the Ipswich Vision Partnership board that we all sit on - it will be interesting to see what comes of this."

What the report recommends:

Green Streets:

Rosemary Lane CGI

Creating green areas on town centre streets - like the Rosemary Lane area of Lower Brook Street would make the town centre more attractive. - Credit: Allies and Morrison

Creating attractive routes though the town centre that are focussed on pedestrian use by using planters or installing small areas of green.

Possible routes would be the Northgate Street/Upper Brook Street/Lower Brook Street link from Christchurch Park to the Waterfront or the Queen Street/ St Nicholas Street/St Peter's Street link from the Cornhill to Stoke Bridge.

The report points out this has been successful in other communities like Clifton in Bristol and Waltham Forest in London.

Developing the New Wolsey Theatre area:

New Wolsey Square

The area near the New Wolsey Theatre could become a new hub for Ipswich. - Credit: Allies and Morrison

Redeveloping the surface car parks and the old Crown Court site on Civic Drive as a new area with some restaurants and cafes but also flats and open spaces - the underground car park would be retained.

This would see the area become a thriving social hub for the town and could eventually include family houseing.

Closing Salthouse Street and College Street to most traffic:

Salthouse Yard

Salthouse Yard concept. Closing some of the streets around the Waterfront to traffic could create attractive areas like this - but will residents accept such major changes? - Credit: Allies and Morrison

This would enable the areas around St Peter's and St Mary at Quay (River church) to become better integrated into the waterfront instead of the feeling that they are trapped in the central reservation of an urban dual carriageway.

Central to this would be the creation of "Salthouse Yard" linking to the back of Isaacs and other Waterfront businesses and creating a new hub for the area.

More homes:

Riverside Park CGI

The creation of a Riverside Park and new housing development could help boost the town centre's population by 50% according to the report. - Credit: Archant

The report says there is the potential to increase the population of Ipswich town centre by 50% over the next two decades in a move that would improve the stability and vitality of the town centre.

One of the key areas for this, it says, is the Riverside between Stoke Bridge and Princes Street where different development proposals have failed to take off.

It says a park along both banks of the river should be created - together with a new neighbourhood of homes including the Cardinal Park area which should be replaced by a new area nearer the river.

However this option is widely seen as unrealistic because Cardinal park is already successful.